Album Review: Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra – Theatre Is Evil

posted on Sep.15, 2012

Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft OrchestraAmanda Palmer.
“Theatre is Evil”
Release Number: 3rd

Hailing From: New York City, New York
Genre: Caberet Rock
Label: 8 ft. Records

What can I say about Amanda Palmer? You know how pop stars today are described as edgy because they got a tattoo, put out a controversial album, or did something unexpected? Well, if that’s true then, Palmer is over the cliff. If other artists kiss girls on stage, she kisses fondles them and then ties them up and gags them (yes, this actually happened). She made a name for herself as one half of the punk cabaret duo, the Dresden Dolls, singing about rape and back-alley abortions. All of these things, combined with her cabaret style is what makes her so unique and exciting.


This album is, in general, pretty tame by Palmer’s standards. It is also a whole lot more accessible and rock oriented than her other work (especially, the nigh incomprehensible Evelyn Evelyn). With a few exceptions, like “Trout Heart Replica,” “Berlin,” and “The Bed Song” the cabaret influence is pretty muted (though still present). The dark explosive piano is missing from most of the album, which is a bit of a surprise from the previously piano driven artist. Instead, this album is characterized, by energetic percussion and an assortment of instruments (though, true to form, guitar is downplayed heavily on any song it appears). The centerpiece of the sound is still Palmer’s powerful voice, which has the sultry, kind of beautiful but sort of dark feel, it always had.

The addition of a full band, the Grand Theft Orchestra, does fundamentally change the music; however, it does not overshadow the older style. That’s probably the greatest strength of this album. It’s different enough to be new, but not enough that it throws out everything that came before it, and not just on the slow, piano driven songs. For example, the bulk of “Do It With A Rockstar” is very bombastic and new, but the first third of the song wouldn’t necessarily sound out of place on any Dresden Dolls album in terms of tone.

Though, there’s probably not going to be anything on this album as controversial as “Oasis” (which many British stations refused to air) or anything as dark, delightfully disrespectful, and sultry as “Mandy Goes To Med School” but the album has something all its own. Something electric, something that let’s you know Amanda Palmer is still as an unyielding in her art as ever. This album is wonderful and building up tension and then letting it all go in an explosive track or verse that will keep listeners on edge.

Theatre is Evil is a great album, plain and simple. Personally, it’s not my favorite Amanda Palmer album, but that would be asking too much from the band. What the album does prove, is that Palmer is not done making new music and will continue to evolve through the years.

– Matthew Jannetti, Music Director

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